How An EAP Can Help With Mental Health Issues

How An EAP Can Help With Mental Health Issues
(Nik Shuliahin / Unsplash)

With the onset of COVID-19, American workers are encountering unprecedented challenges to their mental health.

According to the American Psychiatric Association Foundation Center for Workplace Mental Health, one in five working adults lives with a mental health issue. Based upon a 2016 report from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, more than 20 million Americans 12 and older have substance use disorder, and 2 million are dependent on or are abusing prescription or illegal opioids.

Add COVID-19 to the mix, and employers are challenged to answer a crucial question: How can we help our employees and their families?

Here are five ways an employee assistance program (EAP) can support employees:

  1. Short-term counseling. With a quality EAP, employees can speak to a counselor in person or by phone to address any issues they may be facing, including depression, anxiety, stress at home or work, grief, or loss, relationship or marital conflict and addiction issues.
  2. Family counseling. Often, when one person is suffering, so does the family. EAP counseling and assistance can help family members cope with a loved one’s addiction, depression, anxiety or other mental health issues. They can also get help for their own challenges.
  3. Employee resources. EAPs typically include a website where employees can learn about mental illness, addiction and other behavioral health problems. There may be articles or tools to help them learn how to recognize these issues in themselves and how their problems can affect family members and others.
  4. Employee referrals. By speaking to an EAP counselor about their behavioral health issues, employees can take steps to get treatment. If the employee or family member needs treatment, EAP counselors can refer them to a mental health professional.
  5. Assistance available. Quite often, people who need help put it off because they are too busy with their everyday lives. An EAP can help employees find child or elder care, hire movers or home repair contractors or locate pet care when needed. By taking a little responsibility from these employees, an EAP can give those who need help the time to get it.

To make your EAP useful for your employees, you must support treatment for mental health. Mental health illnesses and treatment continue to be surrounded by stigma. Although treatment for mental health issues is generally high, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, only 33% will seek help. Leadership can play a vital role in having productive conversations about mental health needs and presenting life-saving information.

In light of COVID-19, we have seen an increase in anxiety, depression and substance use disorder. The BridgeWay is fully operational and serves the needs of the community and takes proactive steps to keep patients and team members safe while serving the community's needs.

The BridgeWay is actively monitoring and responding to all recommendations made by the CDC and local regulatory and health authorities and is monitoring for symptoms in patients and staff.

Bruce Trimble, MA, APR, is the director of business development for The BridgeWay Hospital, a psychiatric facility for children, adolescents, and adults in North Little Rock, AR. An avid mental health advocate, Trimble was appointed by the governor of Arkansas to the Arkansas Suicide Prevention Council in 2015 and served as co-chair from 2015 to 2017. In 2018, he was instrumental in establishing the call center for the Arkansas Suicide Prevention Hotline.